What to look for in an outside school hours care service

Published on Wednesday, 10 February 2021
Last updated on Wednesday, 08 December 2021

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Outside School Hours Care (or OSHC) is a huge help to many parents. It bridges the gap between school hours and work hours, covers pupil-free days, fills holidays with fun and comes to the rescue when unexpected events mess with school pick-up plans. 

Because of its usefulness, there is a high demand for OSHC, and although you might be tempted to enrol your child in the first service that has a vacancy, it is important to find a quality OSHC service – whether your child will be spending the occasional morning there, every afternoon, or be booked in for weeks and weeks of holidays throughout the year.  

To help you identify the best OSHC service for your child, Starting Blocks recommends that you think about:

  • The kind of relationship your child will build with their educators

  • The broad experiences on offer at the service

  • Individual activities your child will enjoy

  • The look and feel of the OSHC environment, and

  • Health and safety practices at the service.  

So, let’s look at these considerations, one-by-one. 

What sort of relationships are you looking for at a quality OSHC service?

Whether you enrol your child in a small family day care or a large community-run service, good relationships go to the heart of quality OSHC. 

You want your child to have a trusting, friendly connection with the people who are caring for them, and it’s important that educators show your child respect, and work with your family and school to understand your child’s needs, routines and experiences. 

Starting Blocks says a quality OSHC service will:

  • Seek and value children’s ideas, inputs and opinions as they develop the OSHC program

  • Support children to interact fairly and respectfully, and solve problems effectively, and

  • Provide children with behaviour guidance strategies to help them regulate their behaviour and that of others. 

Visiting a prospective OSHC service will give you a feel for the quality of the relationships in it. When you’re there, ask yourself whether you and your child like the staff and feel welcome; and if you have questions about things like methods of communication, behavioural guidelines or your child’s specific needs, feel free to ask them. 

What kinds of experiences are on offer at a quality OSHC service?

Whether your child will be spending a lot of time at the service, or a little, it’s important that there are plenty of chances for them to play and explore, learn and develop. 

The government says:

  • There should be opportunities for children to relax, socialise and enjoy leisure activities after a big day at school. 

  • They should be supported to develop their self-esteem and confidence, and

  • There should be opportunities for children to start a new interest or hobby, learn a new sport, and share their skills and interests with others.

This could mean that a ‘non-crafty’ child gains confidence by doing art-making, or a sporty kid shows everyone how to crossover dribble a basketball! 

Starting Blocks says community participation is also important, so a quality OSHC service may visit the library one day, plant some trees, or contribute to a local art show. 

How individualised should the OSHC service’s planned activities be?

Although services will offer specific activities for groups of children, the government says it is important for these planned activities to be based on ‘each child’s interests, needs and abilities.’ 

Quality educators plan activities in an individualised and responsive way, giving children choices and allowing for flexibility. 

In practice, this means there are routines and daily experiences on offer, but also room for movement if one child decides they want to switch from relaxed reading to active play, or there’s an unexpected event, like a thunderstorm. 

At the end of the day, the OSHC service should offer interesting, well-organised and varied activities for your child, with a focus on positive relationships and experiences. 

What facilities and resources are available at a quality OSHC service?

Your child needs to feel comfortable and engaged in their OSHC environment, and although some services operate out of shared spaces (like school halls), your child should have plenty of room to launch into safe and vigorous physical activity, or focus on their homework. 

Furniture needs to be suitable for everyone, and the government says, ‘There should be a variety of play and learning materials, equipment and resources, indoor and outdoor, for children to use in many ways. The materials should encourage children to explore, think and solve problems, as well as support children’s creativity and stimulate their curiosity.’ 

Things like books, sporting equipment and art materials are all part of a quality OSHC service. 

What sort of health and safety practices must be followed at your child’s OSHC?

Your child’s health and safety is of paramount importance at any child care service they attend, and it’s important that your OSHC service follows best practice around child supervision, sun safety, hand hygiene, food and so on. 

Obviously, the service should be non-smoking, and drug- and alcohol-free, and if your child has a special dietary need or requires medication, it’s vital that you discuss this with staff. 

What else should you think about when choosing an OSHC service? 

Location, cost, availability and assessed quality are also key considerations, so ask yourself:

  • Whether the service is well-located in terms of your child’s school, home and/or your work

  • What fees the service charges, what’s included in these fees (e.g. meals) and whether you’re eligible for the Child Care Subsidy at this approved child care service

  • Whether a place is available for your child on the day/days you need, or if you need to join a waiting list

  • Whether the service has been assessed by ACECQA under the National Quality Standards and what was its overall rating is (e.g. ‘Excellent’ or ‘Meeting National Quality Standard’).

The CareforKids.com.au Child Care Search makes it easy to locate OSHC options in your area and to see each service’s fees, availability and overall rating. Click here to get started, and we hope you find an excellent OSHC service for the school year.


Starting Blocks

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